Wednesday, August 19, 2020

August 19, 1926 -- Chicago River Bridges Slammed by City Harbor Master

August 19, 1926 – Chicago Harbor Master W. J. Lynch writes a letter to the Commissioner of Public Works, A. A. Sprague, in which he states that “the hoisting of Chicago river bridges by the city to make way for boats, barges, tugs and scows is nothing more nor less than a public subsidy to a private business.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1926].  Lynch does not deny the fact that navigable waters should provide freedom for all users, but he asserts that in a city the size of Chicago “the extreme observance” of such freedom is a “gross injustice to the vast majority of citizens.”  The current city ordinance dictates that the 20 bridges in the heart of the city be closed from 6:30 to 9:00 a.m. and from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., times which have not significantly changed since 1890.  During this nearly 40 year span, however, the city’s habits have changed, according to a street survey.  In 1890 people reported to work in a two-hour span between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.  In 1926 the peak of bridge traffic occurs between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. when 18,000 cars per hour pass over the city’s bridges.  Between 6:30 and 7 only 8,000 vehicles cross the river.  The same trend occurs in the evening.  Along with this trend is the fact that virtually all of the 43 lake passenger vessels in service now dock at the Municipal Pier whereas in earlier days much of the ship traffic into the city used docks along the river itself.  The above photo shows the swing bridge at La Salle Street in 1926.  Note the 35 East Wacker Drive building, known at the time as the Jewelers' Building, under construction in the distance.

August 19, 1974 – Speaking before the Seventy-Fifth annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, President Gerald Ford proposes leniency for the 50,000 American military “deserters and draft-dodgers” [Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1974] if they agree to some form of alternative service upon their return.  Ford says, “I want them to come home, if they want to work their way back.”  The President’s speech is greeted with “whistles, cheers, and loud applause” when he sets aside his scripted remarks to say that he opposes “unconditional blanket amnesty for anyone who illegally evaded or fled military service.”  The crowd cools off, however, when Ford says, “I acknowledge a power higher than the people, who commands not only righteousness but love; not only justice, but mercy … These young people should have a second chance to contribute their fair share to the rebuilding of peace among ourselves.  In the spirit that guided Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, I reject amnesty and I reject revenge.  So I am throwing the weight of my Presidency into the scales of justice on the side of leniency.  I foresee their reentry into a new atmosphere of hope, hard work, and mutual trust.”

August 19, 1963 – Imagine this one happening today!  Coast Guard officials detain five men and a woman aboard a 75-foot boat after the leaking boat is stopped at the Chicago lock because it has no safety equipment and is judged to be unseaworthy.  After removing the crew from the boat, officials discover 500 pounds of dynamite on the top deck and remove the leaking vessel to a point 1,000 feet offshore.  Miss Kiiri Tamm, 21, one of the crew members, tells officials that the group planned to use the dynamite to blow up a sunken barge off Eighty-Third Street in an effort to salvage the metal, which they hoped to sell in order to start a salvage firm of their own.  The bomb squad removes the explosives and the boat is returned to its berth at Goose Island.

August 19, 1946 – Construction begins on the first major building project in the Loop in nearly a decade as a five-story building that will be occupied by the Baskin Clothing Company is begun. The new store, a design by Holabird and Root, is expected to be completed by May 1, 1947. The whole building will be air-conditioned and long strips of glass block will be featured on the Adams Street side of the structure. Exterior walls will be of Indiana limestone with a strip of polished granite framing the building from the roof line to a recessed space above the shop windows.  An entire floor will be devoted to women’s wear with men’s wear taking up the second and third floors.  Office and tailor shops will be placed on the top floor.  The new building will have a frontage of 76 feet on State Street and 148 feet on Adams Street.  The top photo shows the Baskin's Store at 137 South State Street.  The corner as it appears today -- with an EnWave Chicago cooling plant atop a C.V.S. drugstore -- is shown in the photo beneath that.

Chicago Tribune
August 19, 1890 – The Chicago Daily Tribune, under the headline, “It’s No Thoroughfare,” runs a lengthy article on the inadequacies of Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Lake Streets.  At the time the street is the only passage that leads to the Rush Street bridge, the sole public bridge across the river east of State Street. The passage is made difficult because of “the business firms which from early morn to eventide maintain an impassable blockade of wagons, trucks, baskets, skids, barrels, boxes, brooms, and crates from wall to wall on this thoroughfare, using the public street for their private need and denying its use to the public … forcibly severing one link from the chain that should stretch uninterruptedly from Stony Island avenue to Sheridan road.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 19, 1890]  On the previous day a Tribune reporter had canvassed the area, singling out the business of Sprague, Warner and Co. as a particularly zealous offender.  The reporter observed “the entire front of Sprague, Warner and Co. lined with wagons, loading or unloading.  A pair of skids was laid from each of the eight entrances.  Boxes, crates, and barriers were piled all over the sidewalk … No effort of any kind was made to keep the sidewalk even partially clear.”  The report exempts the firm of Reid, Murdoch and Company from the mess on Michigan, noting that “despite the volume of their business, [the company] does not preempt the street for it entirely and few complaints are received of them.”  If other businesses followed the practices of that company, the paper predicts, “the difficulty … would vanish into thin air.  But they have consulted their own convenience alone, and the exigencies of office room on the sunny side of the building weigh far more than the necessity or the rights of the public at large.”  

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